Delivering his keynote conference address in Galway, Mr Sargent insisted only the Greens offered a fresh start for Irish politics.
He pledged to plough resources into lifting children out of poverty, healthcare and helping people “go green” by making their homes energy-efficient.
“We need action politics, not auction politics,” he told delegates. However, this did not stop the Greens unveiling a generous pensions scheme intended to push weekly benefits for those of retirement age to €334 within five years.
Mr Sargent said that while Ireland’s traditional parties feared change, the Greens would lead change as he promised tough new laws to clean up political culture.
“Irish people want more honesty, competence and conviction in politics,” he said. “They want an end to the rezoning culture which has done more than anything to corrupt our political system.”
Mr Sargent said providing medical cards for all children under six would cost half of the €160 million the Government spent on the malfunctioning PPARS health service payroll system.
“Imagine an Ireland in which no child wakes up cold. Let’s ensure that every child has a home and that every home is warm and dry,” said Mr Sargent, who pledged to push through new Luas systems in Cork and Galway, switching State resources away from roads to public transport.
He ridiculed the Government dispatching €270m “out of the country” to buy carbon credits from developing nations so Ireland can meet its Kyoto greenhouse gas targets, rather than spending the money at home on an environmentally-friendly power network.
The Greens also committed to ensuring one-in-five new homes fall into the social or affordable category, rising to one-in-three within 10 years.
Mr Sargent laid into Fianna Fáil’s relationship with “dodgy builders”, insisting he would resign as leader rather than take the Greens into coalition with Bertie Ahern — yet conceding he would serve as a minister in such a Government. In another swipe at the Coalition, party chairman John Gormley accused Tánaiste Michael McDowell of “sticking with Bertie Ahern, no matter what”. He labelled the PD leader “the Tammy Wynette of Irish politics” — desperately standing by his man.
However, a NewsTalk poll of 100 delegates found 86% backed the Greens joining a rainbow government with Fine Gael and Labour, as opposed to 8% who wanted to work with Fianna Fáil and the PDs. More surprisingly, 50% backed the idea of a coalition which needed the backing of Sinn Féin.